Thursday, March 2, 2017

CNN host Brian Stelter honors mentor, inspires students at ACP journalism conference

CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter talks social media with
journalism students Feb. 27 at the ACP conference in Los Angeles.
Photo by Christopher Trotchie/The Commuter

LOS ANGELES -- We need more reporters, and not as many pundits, people who think they know all the answers, according to Brian Stelter.

Stelter is CNN’s senior media correspondent and host of “Reliable Sources,” the weekly TV program that examines media and journalism. He got his professional start as a media reporter at the New York Times, after launching a blog called “TV Newser” when he was still in college.

On Feb. 27 Stelter was the keynote speaker at the annual West Coast conference of the Associated Collegiate Press, which attracted some 700 journalism students, advisers and media professionals from around the United States and Canada. He filled in for his mentor and former New York Times colleague David Carr, 58, who died Feb. 12.

In his talk, “What David Carr Taught Me About Journalism,” Stelter paid tribute to Carr and shared with students the skills and attributes he believes they will need to succeed in journalism in the 21st century.

In addition to the skills of the trade -- reporting, interviewing, writing, mastering social media -- Stelter said students must have a passion for journalism. His own passion for reporting and commenting on media goes as far back as his childhood, when he created a website to write about R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books.

Today, Stelter joked, he and the popular author follow each other on Twitter!
When he arrived at the Times, however, he was not so confident he belonged among the likes of Carr, who Stelter described as the “most important and influential media reporter of our time.”

Stelter said he kept his head down and kept reporting and writing as many stories as he could, gaining confidence and the skills he needed to succeed with every published story, which quickly numbered in the hundreds in his first year at the Times.

“I absolutely did not belong there,” he recalled. “I was terrified.”

Like his mentor, Stelter believes good journalism results from thorough reporting and interviewing. Journalists have to exercise curiosity, make phone calls, and write with confidence.

Stelter recalled Carr saying that a funny thing happens when you do more reporting and more interviews -- a story gets more complicated. It’s the responsibility of the reporter to sort it all out and explain it to readers.

These days, students must be multi-taskers -- versatile and talented. He noted how he recently broke a story that involved writing an article for CNN’s website, which posted the story the same time he reported it on TV. Meanwhile, he had already teased the article on social media, and linked to the full story soon after.

Building video skills will be essential for journalists, he said. Americans watch an average of five hours of video a day. That’s not going away.

It’s also “vitally important” that students take their “personal brand” seriously. When they “google” themselves, the top 10 results better be work they’ve created.

Think about specializing in something, he urged all the young reporters in the audience. “Follow your passion. What can you do better than anybody else?”

Most people today don’t trust the mainstream media, he said. Every day journalists have the opportunity to earn the public’s trust or further erode that trust.

David Carr was terrified of making an error, Stelter said, and so should every journalist.

As for the future, Stelter said he shares Carr’s optimism -- not just for media but also for the young people heading down that career path.

He ended his talk by quoting from one of his favorite Carr columns, “The Fall and Rise of Media,” which was published in the Times in November 2009:

“Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the confidence that is a gift of their age as well.

“For them, New York is not an island sinking, but one that is rising on a fresh, ferocious wave.”


Rob Priewe and Brian Stelter talk
journalism at the ACP conference.
Photo by Christopher Trotchie/
The Commuter
At a glance:

  • Brian Stelter is CNN’s senior media correspondent and the host of “Reliable Sources.” Before that, he was a media reporter for the New York Times.
  • “Reliable Sources” airs at 8 a.m. Sundays on the West Coast.
  • Follow Stelter on Twitter by way of @BrianStelter or @CNN Reliable.
  • Or search “Reliable Sources” on Facebook.
  • Stelter, along with David Carr, is among the journalists featured in the 2011 documentary “Page One: Inside the New York Times.”
  • “I had a lot to learn from David Carr. He would say, he learned more from me,” Stelter said. “‘Page One’ really solidified our bromance.”

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

OSU Crowd Goes 'Wild' Over Cheryl Strayed

Photo courtesy of Karl Maasdam Photography

CORVALLIS -- Oregonians love Cheryl Strayed. Even some of the snotty, elite backpacker society who have hated on her best-selling book “Wild” since its release two years ago.

Readers’ adoration of Strayed was on full display last Thursday from the moment she sheepishly popped on stage from behind the curtain midway through the introduction at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center.

An hour before her talk, the overflow crowd filled every spot in the 1,200-seat auditorium, with hundreds of others left to stand in the aisles or sit on the floor. Sadly, those who hadn’t hustled to find a seat had to retreat to the lobby, where hundreds more watched the hour-long talk by live stream.

Karl Maasdam Photography
Strayed’s upbeat speech ranged from grueling tales along the Pacific Crest Trail and her transformational journey from near self-destruction, to funny moments behind the scenes with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who’ve both been nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in the movie version of “Wild.”

Mostly, however, Strayed fondly remembered her mom, the most “essential” person in her life. It was her mom’s death that precipitated the downward spiral that eventually led Strayed to hike 1,100 miles of the epic and challenging Pacific Crest Trail, otherwise known as the PCT.
Strayed’s story was familiar to most of the Oregon State University crowd, about three-quarters female, who nearly unanimously indicated they had read “Wild,” seen the movie or done both. In her talk, Strayed recounted elements of the story, eliciting both laughter and near tears, sometimes in the same anecdote.

“It really is about my mom, and her life … and what her death meant to me.”

For example, Strayed shared her own college experience and the naïve manner in which she decided to attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. After looking at various brochures, she settled on St. Thomas largely because the people pictured in the pamphlet seemed the “least weird-looking.”

Upon being accepted by the only college to which she applied, she learned that parents and grandparents also could attend classes … for free. Her mom took that opportunity to get the college education she always wanted.

“It was every student’s dream,” Strayed joked. “Would any of you bring your mom to school?!”

Going to college together, however, strengthened the already-impenetrable bond Strayed had with her mom after growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father and living “off the grid” in northern Minnesota. Her mom was her best friend, her confidante, her inspiration.

But on campus, Strayed said, her mom wasn’t to acknowledge her unless Cheryl spoke first. Of course, that embarrassment quickly disappeared. Her mom was a straight-A student, hungry to learn, and redefining her own life.

At the same time, Strayed said, “My mom knew where I had to be at that point in my life. Suddenly I understood who I was, like I never had before.”

So it was that senior year spring break that their lives took a terrible turn, when her mother, 45, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Seven weeks later, she was gone.

Karl Maasdam Photography
Her mother’s death catapulted Strayed, then 22, into binges of alcohol and drug abuse, wanton sex, and “violent, tyrannical” behavior that destroyed her first marriage.

“In my sorrow, I lost my way.”

Four years after her mom died, purely by chance she saw a guidebook for the PCT. And amidst her heartbreak she threw herself relentlessly into her spiritual quest for redemption and renewal.

Strayed said she couldn’t honor her mom by “wrecking” her own life. Full of regret, she needed to start doing the right thing.

She recalled a short scene at the outset of the movie that takes up only a few pages of the book. And yet, it sums up her quest.

She is standing in a hotel room the morning her hike is to begin. All her gear is laid out on the bed. She had never packed a backpack in her life. After she squeezes everything into the enormous bundle she realizes it’s too big.

She can’t budge it.

“What was I thinking?!”

It was upon reflection years later that the moment’s deeper meaning became apparent, she said. “I learned what it means when we have to bear what is unbearable.”

And go on, one step after another.

“You can only figure out how to bear it yourself.”

At one point of the trail her feet were blistered and bloody.

“My feet hurt so bad that I forget about my heart.”

Alone, sometimes scared, often frustrated and exhausted, she persisted. To the end of her journey, at the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River.

It almost seems trite, she said, to start life anew at the Bridge of the Gods. No editor would allow her to make that up.

Yet that’s where her trek concluded in 1995, and her new journey began. One that she’s sure would make her mom proud.

Strayed began writing “Wild” in 2008, “when I could really tell what happened.” By then she had already published her novel, “Torch,” was remarried and had two small children.

She’s been overwhelmed by the success of “Wild,” the movie and the hundreds of emails and letters from appreciative readers. Their kind words far outnumber the caustic reviews from those who have criticized her hike along only part of the 2,600-mile PCT.

They’re critical because she didn’t do the whole trail, she didn’t know what she was doing or even what to pack. And the notoriety of “Wild” will attract all manner of people to the trail, spoiling it for hikers.

They miss the point, she said. It’s not a book about backpacking. It’s about conquering heartbreak and starting over.

People ask her, “What would you say to your mother now?” Strayed said she used to tell people she’d say what you’d expect, “I love you, mom” or “I miss you.”

In the movie, her mom is played by Laura Dern. In real life, her mom wasn’t much taller than five feet. Strayed described Dern as beautiful, tall, willowy.

If she met up with her mom now, Strayed said, she would flatter her by saying, “Laura Dern is playing you in a fucking movie!”

One of the key moments from the film is when Dern’s character, stricken with cancer, says, “I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life. I was always a daughter, or a wife, or a mother …”
Strayed smiled as she described her own cameo in the movie. It happens near the start. She is driving the pickup that drops Reese Witherspoon, aka Cheryl, off at the hotel in Mojave, Calif., the night before her hike.

Months later, Strayed said, the irony dawned on her: “In the movie of my life, I got to be in the driver’s seat.”

At a glance:

Portland writer Cheryl Strayed, best-selling author of “Wild,” spoke Jan. 15 at OSU in Corvallis.

Her talk was part of the annual Discovery Lecture Series, which brings prominent scientists, writers and policymakers to campus. Next up is Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor, on April 13.

In addition to “Wild,” Strayed has written articles for the New York Times, Washington Post and other publications, a novel, “Torch,” and she was the advice columnist behind “Dear Sugar,” a blog on the
The movie “Wild,” now in theaters, stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, who have been nominated for Academy Awards as best actress and best supporting actress.

For more information, see

Strayed generated the loudest laugh of the evening when she described getting a bit of acting advice from Witherspoon leading up to her cameo in the film.

Strayed only needed to say two words, “Good luck,” as Witherspoon climbs out of a pickup to gather up her hiking gear. The scene was one of the last ones filmed for the movie, and Strayed said she started to panic as the moment approached. “It turns out there’s a thousand ways to say, ‘Good luck.’”

So she turns to Witherspoon, who she describes as the most lovely, nurturing, supportive person on the movie crew.

And Reese responds, “Cheryl, just don’t fuck it up!”


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Next editor-in-chief of The Commuter: Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz will be the next editor-in-chief of The Commuter.

Goodykoontz, a journalism major at LBCC, was appointed May 18 by the college's Student Publications Committee. She will succeed Richard Steeves, who will finish his tenure with the last issue of Spring Term.

Emily Goodykoont
"Discovering the power of journalism gave me something I struggled to find most of my life; a platform for truth, a voice that could be heard, and a way to affect change," she wrote in her application for the position. "I believe a newspaper should provide all of this for its readership, for the community it serves.

"The Commuter is a platform for voices in the campus community that too often go unheard. It is a way to tell the stories of the lives happening all around us and should provide the community with relevant, unbiased news in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth."

Beginning this summer and continuing through the 2016-17 school year, Goodykoontz will lead The Commuter's news staff of reporters, editors and photographers, as well as the advertising/marketing staff.
Her goals will focus on:
  • Upholding the newspaper's values of honesty and compassion.
  • Encouraging all types of mindsets and people to join in producing the campus newspaper and online site, and welcoming creative contributions such as graphics, art and comics. 
  • Improving communication between the staff of editors and contributors.
  • Building positive, communicative relationships with student leadership and the college administration.
The responsibilities of The Commuter's editor-in-chief include appointing and managing the newspaper's staff; coordinating the work of the staff, including assigning and editing stories and photos; leading staff meetings and other newspaper activities; and representing the newspaper in the college community.

The college's Student Publications Committee is comprised of faculty members Terrance Millet and Robin Havenick, college marketing staff members Lori Fluge-Brunker and Joe Sherlock, students Allison Lamplugh, Yuting Zhao, Marci Sischo and Richard Steeves, and Student Leadership Council adviser Barb Horn.

To contact Goodykoontz or for more information about getting involved in The Commuter, she can be reached at 541-917-4451 or Or follow her on Twitter,  @sharkasaurusX.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Richard Steeves Appointed Commuter Editor-in-Chief for 2015-16

Richard Steeves, new editor-in-chief
of The Commuter at LBCC.
The Student Publications Committee has appointed next year's editor-in-chief at The Commuter -- Richard Steeves.

Steeves succeeds Allison Lamplugh, who wrapped up her term as top editor of the college's student newspaper and online site with the June 3 issue, the last of the 2014-15 school year.

Steeves, a journalism and communication student at LBCC, begins his tenure with this summer's editions and will serve through the 2015-16 school year.

This past year Steeves worked as a reporter, photographer and copy editor at The Commuter. He covered a variety of stories, ranging from politics and community news to sports.

"Journalists have a responsibility to their readers, and that responsibility is to be honest and ethical," Steeves wrote in his application to become editor-in-chief. "The Commuter's readers are our campus community, and I view it as a huge responsibility not only to tell the community the truth about news events and other important events, but also to do so in a fair and ethical manner."

The duties of The Commuter's editor-in-chief include:
  • Appointing and managing the newspaper's staff of editors, reporters and photographers.
  • Coordinating the work of the staff, including assigning and editing stories and photos.
  • Leading staff meetings and other newspaper activities.
  • Representing the newspaper in the college community.
The college's Student Publications Committee was comprised of faculty members Terrance Millet and Robin Havenick, college marketing staff members Lori Fluge-Brunker and Joe Sherlock, students Ted Holliday, Klayna Palacios, Marci Sischo and Allison Lamplugh, and Student Leadership Council adviser Barb Horn.

To contact Steeves or for more information about getting involved in The Commuter, he can be reached at 541-917-4451 or

Update: In his first decisions at editor-in-chief, Steeves has appointed Melissa Chandler as managing editor and Kyle Braun-Shirley as Arts & Entertainment editor. 

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

LBCC, Commuter Host Annual ONPA Journalism Workshop, Awards Program

Many of the state's top college journalists will gather on campus May 8 to learn new skills and be honored for outstanding writing, reporting and photography over the past year.

Upwards of 100 student journalists and their advisers will attend the annual Collegiate Day journalism program at LBCC. The event, supported by the Oregon Newspapers Foundation and hosted by LBCC and The Commuter, will include sessions on investigative reporting and social media.

The event kicks off Friday morning with a panel discussion moderated by Charlie Weaver, publisher of the Daily Emerald at the University of Oregon. Along with members of the Emerald staff, Weaver will discuss the transition of the campus newspaper into a multimedia company that not only distributes news and information but also provides marketing and public relations services.

Samantha Swindler, managing producer for the Oregon Media Group and editor of the Forest Grove Leader, will lead a session on investigative reporting.

Tigard Times reporter Geoff Pursinger and Portland Tribune reporter Shasta Kearns Moore will discuss social media and the newsroom in another session.

The event will be capped off with the annual Collegiate Newspaper Contest Awards in the afternoon, where Oregon college newspapers and their staff will be recognized for outstanding work over the past year, including writing, reporting, illustration, photography, websites, and newspaper advertising and design.

For the past half dozen years LBCC and The Commuter have hosted the event, which involves student journalists at four-year universities and community colleges from around Oregon. Collegiate Day is organized annually by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents newspaper companies throughout the state.

Friday's event begins with registration at 8 a.m. and concludes after the awards program, which runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact LBCC journalism instructor and Commuter adviser Rob Priewe at or 541-917-4563.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Allison Lamplugh Appointed Commuter Editor-in-Chief for 2014-15

Allison Lamplugh will be the next editor-in-chief of The Commuter, LBCC's student newspaper and online site. 

Lamplugh, a journalism student at LBCC, will be the top editor for the 2014-15 school year. Her term officially begins at the end of Spring Term. 

Allison Lamplugh will be editor-in-chief
of The Commuter for 2014-15.
The Student Publications Committee appointed Lamplugh Wednesday afternoon. She will succeed TeJo Pack as editor-in-chief.

"The Commuter, as a team of journalists, has an obligation to bring current, accurate and relevant stories to our readers. During Spring Term we had the opportunity to inspire change on campus via our investigative reporting. It was exciting!" she wrote in her application letter. "In my opinion, that's what journalism is all about. Telling the truth for all to see, form their own opinions, and to get involved."

She continued, "The Commuter should be a reflection of the quality of people we have at LBCC and the quality of talent we have writing and editing such stories. It's my goal to be creative with content." 

Lamplugh emphasized building on the creative talents of the current staff, giving returning staffers opportunities to expand their abilities in the coming year, and continuing to make The Commuter accountable to its readers and the LBCC community.

This year Lamplugh has worked as a reporter, photographer and news editor for The Commuter. 

Her work experience includes project manager for Industrial Pixel VFX as well as writer and co-founder of Bear Witness Magazine, both in Los Angeles. She also has worked for Starbucks, Legends Gifts in Nashville, Tenn., and CASH 1/Checksmart in California. She grew up in Philomath.

The duties of The Commuter's editor-in-chief include:
  • Appointing and managing the newspaper's staff of editors, reporters and photographers. 
  • Coordinating the work of the staff, including assigning and editing stories and photos.
  • Leading staff meetings and other newspaper activities.
  • Representing the newspaper in the college community. 
Contact The Commuter staff at or 541-917-4451.